Udaan (2010) – A heartwarming coming-of-age tale that speaks to many youngsters

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“Writers are losers. They grow long hair and become drunks as a result of frustration”, says a man at one point in the film. This happens to be the narrow-minded view of the tyrannical father of the film’s protagonist Rohan. This also happens to be a view that is shared by most (not all) parents in India. In India, telling your parents that you want to be a writer or filmmaker is akin to saying, “I am a homosexual”. As a result, many youngsters end up in professions like Engineering or Medicine because their parents see these as the only fields that would provide them with a secure financial future. Rohan is one of these youngsters.

As the film opens, we see Rohan and his buddies trying to sneak out of their boarding room at night to catch a sleazy B-movie at a local theater. In the middle of the movie, one of them turns around and sees their warden behind them watching the same movie and simultaneously being engaged in some hanky-panky with a lady friend of his. He sees them staring at him and rest assured, they are expelled from the school. Rohan ends up at the home of his widower father. There he also finds an unexpected occupant he didn’t know about until now – his 6-yr old stepbrother.

Rohan is soon subjected to the oppressive lifestyle dictated by his father. When his father orders him to work at his metal factory and study Engineering at the local University, he objects and tells him about his wish to be a writer. This doesn’t go over very well with him and he reacts very harshly. The only person who supports Rohan is his mild-mannered uncle who suggests that he be patient. The rest of the film deals with Rohan’s attempts to survive the several ordeals that his father puts him through and finding a way to realize his dreams.

Udaan came along at a time when many serious film-goers in India were fed up of seeing the same masala-filled, song-and-dance routines all the time. It was the breakout film of a debut director named Vikramaditya Motwane. It managed to strike a chord in many youngsters in India. They instantly related to the character of Rohan because he is someone who represented them. I’m sure there are many parents in India who would object to the idea of their children seeing a film like this. What if they watch it and get inspired all of a sudden, right? When these youngsters have trouble communicating with their parents properly, how do you expect them to tell them about a film that encourages independent thinking?

Unlike other Indian directors before him, Motwane was smart enough to not take the melodrama route with this one. Rohan is played by debut actor Rajat Barmecha and for a first-timer, he is very convincing. And Ronit Roy is superb as the abusive father. He spews venom in every scene he is in. Also notable is the performance by Ram Kapoor who plays Rohan’s uncle. The screenplay was co-written by director Anurag Kashyap and he deserves a major credit for helping this film see the light of the day. There are few musical interludes but they are not long or distracting. This is a very effective film and I was glad to see a gritty film like this coming out of our country.

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